A Flushing man was convicted for his role in extorting a gambling parlor owner and threatening him with violence when he wouldn’t pay up, prosecutors announced Friday.
Yuan “Mike” Li, 38, was found guilty of extortion conspiracy and threatening physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan following a four-day trial.
“With this verdict, Li now faces punishment for his role in using fear, intimidation and threats of violence to extort a rival who dared to open a gambling parlor on his co-defendant’s turf,” stated United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue.
According to trial testimony, Li’s co-defendant, 37-year-old Anthony Pineda, was operating multiple gambling parlors in Flushing where he distributed large amounts of methamphetamine. In September 2017, the male victim opened a gambling parlor in a building on College Point Boulevard that also housed one of Pineda’s gambling parlors. Later, on Sept. 28, 2019, Li and Pineda demanded that the victim pay them 10 percent of his gambling parlor’s profits,
When the victim refused, Pineda pulled out a gun and Li reiterated his demand for payment, but to no avail. The next day, Li and Pineda again demanded that the victim provide a percentage of his parlor’s profits, but were ultimately unsuccessful yet again. Fearing his safety, the victim called the FBI.
The trial was a part of a larger scheme involving 11 other defendants, including Pineda. Pineda previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and threatening physical violence in furtherance of an extortion plan on Aug. 14.
On various dates between April and September 2019, co-defendants Joung Hwa Yun, 41, Yunfeng Goa, 34, Lu Zhai, 31, Marco Rescino, 23, Jing Wang, 35, Ivan Kaleda, 29, and Guanghua Shen, 45, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. In June and July 2019, co-defendants Nan Zhang, 32, and Ting Li, 31, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine. On May 21, 2019, Si En Li, 46, pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling business.
When sentenced, Li faces up to 40 years in prison. Pineda and the 10 other defendants are currently awaiting sentencing.